“The more public this effort is, the more distant it is. The more discreet it is, the greater are its chances for success,” Netanyahu said.
Akiva Van Koningsveld
January 31, 2024
(JNS) — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu urged discretion on Wednesday about ongoing hostage negotiations with Hamas and told the families of the 136 hostages in Gaza that the government is “truly committed” to bringing them all home.
“We are making every effort,” Netanyahu told representatives of 18 families, during a meeting at his office in Jerusalem. “The more public this effort is, the more distant it is. The more discreet it is, the greater are its chances for success.”
The premier told the families that Israel is committed “in every sense of the word.”
“This is not just lip service,” he said. “While it is too early to say how it will happen, the effort is being made at this time, at this very moment.”
According to official figures, some 136 hostages remain in Gaza, although dozens are believed to be dead. Hamas kidnapped an estimated 240 people when it invaded the northwestern Negev on Oct. 7. Hamas terrorists murdered 1,200 people, overwhelmingly civilians, that day.
The Washington Post reported on Tuesday that Israel agreed to a framework for a renewed hostages-for-ceasefire deal. Hamas was considering the offer, per the Post, which cited officials familiar with the negotiations.
All civilians would reportedly be released over an initial six-week period, with soldiers and bodies of dead hostages returned in subsequent stages.
Israeli would free three Palestinian terrorists from jail for every hostage. The agreement also would reportedly include “a temporary repositioning of Israeli troops away from high-population areas of Gaza.”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pledged on Tuesday not to free large numbers of Palestinian terrorists or withdraw Israel Defense Forces troops from Gaza as part of a deal with Hamas.
Per a recent Channel 12 survey, 50% of Israelis oppose a hostage agreement that would see an extended pause in fighting and the release of Palestinian terrorists.
Israel’s War Cabinet will meet on Thursday night at the Kirya military headquarters in Tel Aviv to discuss the recent developments in the negotiations, Ynet reported.
Amid renewed ceasefire talks, soldiers of the IDF’s 414th Combat Intelligence Collection Unit of the Border Protection Corps have joined the military’s assault in the heart of Khan Yunis in southern Gaza, the army said on Wednesday.
Since Jan. 21, the army has been mounting a massive operation in the city, killing scores of terrorist operatives including company commanders. The battle force includes parts of the IDF’s Givati Infantry Brigade, 7th Armored Brigade, paratroopers and commandoes.
Yahya Sinwar, the leader of Hamas in Gaza and one of the masterminds of the Oct. 7 massacre, and Mohammed Deif, head of Hamas’s Al-Qassam Brigades “military wing,” are believed to be hiding in Khan Yunis.
Many of the remaining hostages are believed to be held in the vast tunnel network under Khan Yunis and surrounding areas.
As part of the military maneuver, the 414th unit joined the brigade’s combat teams, locating terrorists, assisting in intelligence gathering and searching booby-trapped structures, the IDF stated.
In another case, Border Protection Corps troops identified an armed Palestinian terrorist in the vicinity of soldiers and ordered an Israeli Air Force strike, killing him before he could attack.
Since the beginning of the ground incursion on Oct. 27, the 414th unit uncovered more than 100 tunnel shafts, destroyed more than 200 terrorist infrastructures and eliminated some 400 terrorists using drones and other advanced technologies, the army stated.
Meanwhile, members of the 7th Brigade’s combat team raided a major Palestinian Islamic Jihad munition and missile factory in the western part of Khan Yunis, the IDF said on Wednesday. As part of the operation, forces located explosive charges, Kalashnikov rifles, warheads for rocket-propelled grenades, hand grenades and other weapons.
In addition, the IDF located and destroyed a tunnel route in the complex. The operation set back the Iran-backed terror group’s ability to produce rockets for a “significant period of time,” the army said.
Also on Wednesday, an Israeli Air Force precision air-strike on a vehicle in Rafah, near Gaza’s border with Egypt, killed three terrorists, including a senior member of Islamic Jihad, Al-Jazeera reported.
Amid an NBC reports—which the White House refutes—that the Biden administration is exploring leveraging arms shipments to Israel to pressure Jerusalem to scale back the war against Hamas, Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant visited an Elbit Systems factory in Ramat Hasharon on Wednesday.
“The defense establishment is investing more and more in blue-and-white products,” Gallant told workers at the factory, adding that Netanyahu’s government is “greatly” increasing the domestic production of weaponry.
On Wednesday evening, the IDF death toll since the start of the Gaza ground offensive rose to 224 with the announcement of an additional soldier killed in action.
Maj. (res.) Yitzhar Hofman, 36, from Eshhar in the Lower Galilee, fell in battle in the northern Gaza Strip. Since the start of the war on Oct. 7, 561 IDF soldiers have been killed on all fronts.